'Embarrassing' Germany crashes to historic defeat

2021-04-02 12:06:32

  North Macedonia's Eljif Elmas in action with Germany's Joshua Kimmich during a World Cup Group J qualifier in Duisburg, Germany, March 31, 2021. [Photo/Agencies] DUISBURG, Germany-Germany's performance was dubbed "embarrassing" after it suffered its first World Cup qualifying defeat for 20 years in a humiliating 2-1 home loss to North Macedonia which heaped pressure on coach Joachim Loew. "The disappointment is huge," said a crest-fallen Loew after the final whistle in Duisburg on Wednesday. "This is a setback. There were a lot of mistakes and we didn't find a way to break down the deep-lying North Macedonians. "We also let them counterattack and had no grip on the game." Napoli midfielder Eljif Elmas scored the winner five minutes from time after Ilkay Gundogan's penalty had drawn Germany level following 37-year-old striker Goran Pandev's first-half opener. The German media were quick to put the boot in. "How embarrassing!" fumed daily Bild on its website. "Nasty Surprise" said magazine Kicker, while Frankfurt-based daily FAZ opted for "Rude awakening for the German team". The four-time world champion has never failed to qualify for soccer's biggest tournament, but did not enter the inaugural edition in 1930 and was banned in 1950. However, Loew's men are now already languishing third in the Group J qualifying table, three points adrift of leader Armenia and behind North Macedonia on goal difference. "The fact is, that shouldn't have been allowed to happen," admitted stand-in captain Gundogan after Germany's first World Cup qualifying loss since the infamous 5-1 thrashing by England in 2001. "It felt as though North Macedonia only got near our goal twice and scored twice-it was too easy. We had chances and only scored one goal. "It hurts all the more that not much will happen for two months," added the Manchester City star, referring to the fact that Germany does not play again until its Euro 2020 warm-up matches in June. "We have to get in top shape by the end of May and prepare for the (European championship) tournament." Germany faces world champion France and holder Portugal in its European championship group. The defeat was just the latest setback suffered by Germany, after its 6-0 drubbing by Spain last November and the shock group-stage exit at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The loss, which ended an 18-match win streak in World Cup qualifying, will put pressure on Loew, who will step down following the Euro 2020 finals in July after 15 years in charge. The result will also weigh on struggling Chelsea striker Timo Werner, who squandered a golden chance with the score at 1-1 after coming off the bench. "I'm sorry for him (Werner)," admitted Gundogan. The former RB Leipzig striker has scored only two goals in his last 31 appearances for club and country. Pandev strikes North Macedonian is ranked 65th in the world, 52 places below Germany, but it was the visiting side who took the lead in Duisburg. Germany was made to pay for missing several early chances, including a skied shot by Bayern Munich winger Serge Gnabry with the goal at his mercy. In first-half added time, North Macedonia's former Inter Milan striker Pandev fired home his 38th international goal. Germany was suddenly faced with failing to win a World Cup qualifier for the first time since being held to a 4-4 draw at home by Sweden in 2012. With an hour gone, Gundogan-Germany's captain on the night with Manuel Neuer rested-stepped up to convert the resulting penalty after Leroy Sane went down in the area. After Werner's howler, North Macedonia took its chance when Arijan Ademi beat Werner's Chelsea teammate Antonio Rudiger and squared for Elmas to fire home. AFP